Reflecting on 2016

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As 2016 is coming to an end, I thought I would reflect on the past year. Let’s be honest, this year hasn’t been one of the best for many people. For me, it has been up and down. There were a lot of bad times but there were also a lot of good and memorable times in both my professional and personal life.

Taking work for example, I’ve had the pleasure of working on some of the biggest news stories that will go down in history. 2016 has definitely been a historic year for politics. Britain voting to leave the European Union had split the whole of the United Kingdom and it was a truly fascinating campaign. One word following the Brexit vote was ‘unpredictable’. Things suddenly started happening and changing. David Cameron resigning as Prime Minister after Brexit vote, then the Conserative leadership election was cut short after Andrea Leadsom quit the race, which made Theresa May the Prime Minister. Another Labour leadership election won by Jeremy Corbyn. It was so exciting yet so emotional. Following that was the victory of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. The “impossible” kept turning into possible. It was such a fascinating year of politics and one that is unforgettable.

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I’ve learnt a lot about myself this year. I do get upset and angry very easily and take everything personally and lash out. This is something I definitely want to work on in 2017. I need to learn to take criticism and know that I cannot always be perfect. I need to realise that not being perfect is okay. It hasn’t been a good year for my mental health. I am still in this period of ambivalence with my eating disorder. I want to get better but I don’t at the same time. That is ongoing and something to work on in 2017. Then again, I still have a job that I adore and have been holding it down pretty well, despite my mental health.

This year, only recently in November, I went on my first ever holiday. It was only to the Scottish Highlands – Loch Lomond, but this was a big deal because I hadn’t travelled in 12 years. So, going on a plane and staying away from home for a couple of days with friends was a challenge for me. It was a good challenge and a learning experience. In 2017, I hope to travel some more and who knows, hopefully I can be brave and go somewhere abroad. The only place I have been abroad, not in the UK, is Bangladesh and heck, I do not want to go there again. I don’t see it as a holiday. I would like to visit Australia and somewhere in the US, like New York. But, my kind of holidays are quiet places, peaceful and relaxing – I live in the city so it is nice to go somewhere with less people (that’s why I chose to go to the Scottish Highlands for my first trip!). I like places with nice scenery and big mountains and not that hot – I also love the countryside.

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Now this one might be controversial for someone in my condition, but I got back into training since the summer. I was on exercise ban by my treatment team (even now they’re still weary about me working out) but now I feel I have a much more “healthier” mindset to exercise – less focus on weight and more focus on getting stronger and a better mental health. They say exercise helps with depression and it certainly does. I joined Gymbox and I have to say, it has made working out so much more fun and sociable. In all honesty, it has changed my life. Gymbox isn’t just your average gym – it is literally like a club but everything fitness. You walk into the sound of big heavy beats and the atmosphere is so cool and fun. I go to a lot of different classes, mainly dance and HIIT classes, that consists of circuits. I also do spin class, pilates and some weights based classes too. I also adore boxing. My goal for 2017 is to keep working on that core and get it stronger so I can do planks for longer than 50 seconds and just have fun. The best thing about Gymbox is that it has helped a lot with my confidence too. In classes, you meet new people and make friends and you all have something in common – fitness. If you’re someone who hates the thought of the gym – join Gymbox. Trust me, you will not want to leave!

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I enjoyed doing a lot of photoshoots this year, stepping out of my comfort zone and being in front of the camera really did help my confidence. I also got signed to a modelling agency, which is so exciting, so hoping for more shoots in 2017. I was also very pleased to be featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, where I spoke openly about being a high functional women with an eating disorder. It was such a cool opportunity.

When I first decided to write this, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t have any big memorable happy moments but I guess I realised that I should be grateful for the little things that happened. Sometimes, actually wanting to live is hard for me, but here I am, I am still here. I haven’t let this illness taken me and I will still fight every single day in 2017 to survive. A lot of this year I battled with feeling lonely. It’s not the lonely where you think you have no friends, it’s an empty feeling inside. But, I am where I am and I can only improve it slowly. Life isn’t a rush and it isn’t a competition. There are things I haven’t been able to achieve this year, for example, my driving – I failed one test and haven’t had any since but my aim for 2017 is to pass it – but if I don’t, I shouldn’t be hard on myself. The only thing I can do is just enjoy the journey and not focus too much on the destination – and I suggest you guys do the same too.

Happy New Year!

xxx

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We are only hurting, we are not criminals

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There have always been misconceptions of mental health sufferers as being scary, violent and “crazy”.  Of course, that is what the stereotype of mental illness is. No wonder why people are so afraid to get help.  If you have met the people I have met in psychiatric hospitals, you’d see that they are not even near that. They are often gentle, friendly and amazingly intelligent people.

Yes, my illness can make me do certain things I shouldn’t be doing, such as impulsively and uncontrollably messaging and calling someone when angry or going on a massive spending spree and buying anything and everything that takes my fancy, without thinking of the financial consequences.

But why should someone who is struggling, deeply hurting inside, someone who desperately needs understanding, love and care, spend time detained in custody in a cell with drug addicts and real violent criminals? How is that going to help a person who just suffers with depression and a personality disorder, perhaps due to traumatic experiences in the past, get better? How can someone’s behaviour, out of their control, land them in a police cell? In fact, it could make them even worse.

Mental health patients need help, not a criminal offense or a warning, because their behaviour is never intended to hurt others but rather themselves. They need to see friendly psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses who will understand why they do the things they do. They will have tools that can help them to get better. They need supportive family and friends. They don’t need the police to scare them. In fact, someone suffering with a mental health disorder is often always scared, is always battling in what they think will be a life sentence, why would anyone want to make that worse? Mentally ill patients are often prisoners inside themselves, desperately trying to find a way out.

Whenever someone is in a crisis, police is not what we need. Seeing a police officer immediately confirms to us that we are a bad person. We already feel like that anyway. I am not a bad person. I am sure you are not a bad person either. Having a mental health problem does not mean you a bad person. I am not a criminal. We are not a criminal.

Keeping mental health patients locked up in a police cell could possibly be one of the reasons why some police stations are incredibly busy and overcrowded. Instead of locking them up, who are often very innocent, driven by their illness and need psychological help, why not catch real criminals who are the ones who deserve to be locked up.

Mental illness is not a crime. Suffering is not a crime. We are not criminals. We just need people to understand and help us get better.

This post was published on The Huffington Post UK

What Films Am I Watching At The Moment?

I was never much of a movie person until only a few months ago when I decided to subscribe to Netflix. Of course, before that I did watch films but not on a regular basis. I thought I would write a post about all the films that I have been loving at the moment. This is in no particular order.


Matilda

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I have lost count of how many times I have watched Matilda but it is probably my favourite film of all time. Recently, I have been scrounging online to watch something and when I am rather bored, I turn to films that have repeatedly watched about a million times and last week, it happened again. I decided to watch Matilda. I never get bored of it. Each time I watch it, I am always hooked. A childhood favourite and will always be on my top 10.


Wild Child

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Any film that Emma Roberts is in, I will watch it. I have loved Emma ever since her Unfabulous days on Nickelodeon. Wild Child is mainly set in the UK because the whole storyline is to do with Poppy More (played by Emma Roberts) moving to an English boarding school called Abbey Mount – except, a lot of commotion happens. Such a great movie and well played by Emma Roberts.


Confessions of a Shopaholic 

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Confessions of a Shopaholic is by far one of my favourite ever movies. I can relate to it so much because, I am a self confessed shopaholic myself. Rebecca Bloomwood, played by Isla Fisher is a journalist who lands a job at a financial magazine, except she is in debt and cannot control her shopping habits. This film sends a great message about being good with money and what the consequences are when you are not.


Beauty & The Briefcase 

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Beauty & The Briefcase is a similar film to Confessions of a Shopholic with regards to journalism and working at a business/financial type of organisation. Except, in this film, Lane Daniels played by Hilary Duff, undergoes a job by Cosmo magazine to work at a finance company as an investigate journalist. Lane wants to find love in the workplace and goes on a mission to date as many business men as she can to find the perfect guy. How fun would it be to be an undercover journalist? Great film.


The Devil Wears Prada

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I only just watched this recently and I absolutely love it. Based on the novel of the same name, Andrea Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway is an aspiring journalist (are you sensing a pattern in my movie choices?) who gets a job to work for the Editor of fashion magazine Runway who is Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep as her personal assistant. But little did she know that in order to work in fashion, she must change the way she dresses and behaves, affecting her private life and relationships. A wonderful film, which I reckon I will watch again.

Is Work Experience Worth It?

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People often have a rather cynical view of work experience and in this economy, we are seeing a lot of youth unemployment. Many of that is down to no experience or a lack of motivation to go out and find a job and yes, I know the government has a part to play in this and they are offering a lot of training opportunities for young people who do not go to university. However, unfortunately, if we do go to university, a degree is simply not enough. In any sector now, you need to have some kind of experience outside of education and many of them are unpaid.

In 2012, I completed eight unpaid work experience placements and now, with me being in my final year of university, I have a lot of experience under my belt for after graduation. One of the reasons why I excelled at getting those placements is because luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was simply aiming for that, which does makes things easier.

There is nothing wrong about not knowing what you want to do but that is what work experience is for. Finding out what you are good at and where you want to go. When people think of work experience, they think of a job that you want to do in the future but that is not necessarily the case at all. If you don’t know what you want to do, I suggest you think long and hard about what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at, what you are not good at and find a sector that you think you may want go into and research that.

I have had ambitions ever since I was young to work in the media, specifically in the music industry. I got my first work experience placement at a music studio in Year 10 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I wanted to be a music journalist because I loved new music and I was obsessed with certain bands – I thought I really wanted my future to be based around the music industry. A few years down the line, I could not have been more wrong and that is down to work experience.

When I eventually got my first undergraduate work placement during my first year at university, I did something that was nothing to do with music. I worked at BBC Radio 4 for one month and then I did a lot more unpaid radio and TV work placements.

By meshing all of those work placements together, I am now confident enough to tell you exactly what I want to do as a career because I had a lot of different experience to come to a decision about what I really want to do. Sometimes, you may think a certain job is so amazing yet you have not had a chance to work there but when you eventually do, it may not be what you were expecting and vice versa – a job that you really think won’t be to your taste but when you do it, it may perhaps be your dream job. So, do not knock it, until you have tried it.

What I am trying to put across is that, do not be put off by unpaid experience because all my placements made me gain so many skills and industry based knowledge. It did a lot to improve my confidence and self-esteem. I also got to see how the world of work will be like, so it has prepared me for the real thing. Most importantly, I made amazing contacts (who I hassle now and then for a job). Now, I will not have to do what many students do after I complete my degree – go out and look for unpaid work experience, which to me is a waste of time after graduation. I do not want to be unemployed after I leave university.

Also, what I want to stress is that, people think work experience is just making tea. Well, I do not know about other industries, but certainly when I was on work experience, they basically threw me in at the deep end straight away and I had to do big tasks. They treated me like I was an actual member of the team and people relied on me to finish a task promptly. I did not even have to make a single cup of tea to be honest with you. So, it may be unpaid but it may not be what you are expecting it to be like and you get so much out of it for the future.

So, in a nutshell, what I did was, whilst being at university, I did as much unpaid work experience as I can to make myself ready for employment freshly out from university in 2014. That is what employers look for, experience as well as qualification but to me, experience overshadows everything.

I am in my third year now and along with two dissertation to do, I am also starting to think about if I want to do a postgraduate degree or apply to paid graduate schemes or even proper jobs and applying to graduate schemes and jobs feels right because I feel qualified and ready, or rather I will do after I graduate and perhaps after working in the industry for a couple years, I may want to get back into education to do my Masters.

To me, work experience is so important. In fact, it is a must if you want to get a good job. Work experience can also be life-changing, because for me, it was and to answer the question of this article, yes, work experience is so worth it.

How I Got Into Journalism & Advice On How To Get Into Journalism

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People often ask me how I got into journalism so I thought I would do a blog post on it about both broadcast and print journalism and my top tips on how to get into journalism yourself.

I actually have no idea how I got into journalism to be honest because I just sort of fell into it. I did not ever say, “When I grow up, I want to be a journalist.” Not really.  I wanted to be a teacher (as most kids do), a singer, a dancer….I knew I always wanted to work in the media industry, specifically music but that has died down now and I will talk about that a bit more in a bit.

I always remember being fascinated by the news and what is going on in the world. When I was little, I watched and listened to newsreaders on TV and on the Radio and tried to imitate them. I always wondered what it would be like to be a newsreader, a TV presenter or a radio presenter…but I always felt like I could never be those things because of my lack of confidence and so I just turned to writing and music instead, which was easier as I am not much of a speaker.

Writing has always been one of my main passions. I can articulate myself better in writing rather than speaking. I used to keep a diary. My diary went everywhere with me. It was a very useful way of letting my feelings out. It kind of was my only friend – do excuse the cliché. The reason why, was because I always felt rather misunderstood and so when I wrote things down, I felt like I was getting it all off my chest and therefore felt better. Also, my diary (along with music) was a big part of my life when I was being bullied and my times in psychiatric units. It helped, a lot.

There has been a lot of studies showing a correlation between creativity and mental illnesses and I can definitely vouch for that. Writing has always been a release for me.

I would not say my favourite subject in school was English, however I did get a good grade in my English GCSE and I enjoyed a lot of the coursework. I love writing essays. I remember writing a GCSE English essay about something to do with the media and I got an A on that piece – my first ever A that I have ever got in my life and I was proud of it. I then realised that I am rather good at writing. I was praised by teachers saying how well written my essays are and that really gave me a bit of confidence – I actually was good at something.

Because I enjoyed music and had a passion for radio, I wanted to work in music radio or become a music journalist writing for a magazine. I started a blog and wrote about music – reviewing music/bands etc… but I just was not happy with it. I did not feel like I was getting anywhere with it and I did not enjoy it.

During my stint at BBC Radio 4 , I really got into news and politics. I met rather intellectual people everyday there such as newsreaders, producers, journalists, presenters, philosophers, politicians and authors. It was then when I felt like this is what I want to do. I want to make news and current affairs programmes for a speech radio station such as Radio 4. I want to create news and inform people.

Music really at that point, did not matter to be anymore. Well, of course it mattered but not in a career sense. I love music and always will, but I do not want to work in that industry anymore.

I remember a lot of the Tony Blair years. I was only little but the Blair era stood out as a lot of things happened in that Labour government, overshadowed by the Iraq war. News was on everyday in the house and Blair was not that popular in our house. Gordon Brown years were absolutely ridiculous too. I was not heavily into politics then but Brown absolutely destroyed the government.

However, when I visited the Houses of Parliament and saw how the House of Commons looks in real life – I pretty much fell in love with it.

I am following the Coalition government very closely and since Radio 4 and my time at LBC, I have quite an obsession with politicians and how they think, how they act, their policies. I have developed this kind of analytical mind about politicians and I love writing about UK politics. I actually would love to work at Westminister as a politician’s assistant. How weird. I do not support and have never supported a particular party because being a journalist has taught me to be impartial. I would not want to be political journalist though as I love writing about various things, as you can see by this blog.

Putting politics aside, I have realised that I love storytelling, I love writing, I love reading and I love meeting interesting people. I love informing people about certain issues. It does take a lot of guts to do what with having issues with anxiety but in order to be a journalist, you have to talk which is what I am working on and journalism is my own personal journey to getting better and conquering a lot of fears.

Something that has helped me emotionally has become something that I made into a job now, which is absolutely amazing.

So, these are my top tips if you want to become a journalist yourself…

Be Passionate

Obviously, if you want to become a journalist, you really have to know your stuff – you have to be on the ball all the time – watching, listening and reading the news everyday. Attend events. Go to the scene of the crime. Take notes. You have to be passionate about news and getting a story out there.

Write

Start a blog and write whatever you are passionate about. I do not write about something that I am not interested in. I write about something that really interests me and if I have something to say.

Read

If you know me, you would know that newspapers have always been something that I have read ever since I was little. I love newspapers and I have a collection of newspapers (mostly The Independent), including magazines too. Read as much as you can. Books, newspapers, magazines, online articles etc… It really helps with learning.

Work Experience/Internships/Graduate Trainee Schemes

I do not think I would be a journalist now if I have never done a work placement at a place as big as the BBC. You must have some kind of work experience in order to get some practical skills. Apply at the BBC, your local radio station, magazine, newspaper – anywhere to get your foot in the door.

If you have graduated from university, apply for Graduate schemes. The BBC provide a Journalism Trainee Scheme. Many top journalists have been on that scheme.

University

Not everyone who is a journalist is a graduate but most journalists that I have met have some kind of degree behind them. Most top journalists have a postgraduate degree but of course, that is not essential. It is good to have a degree anyway – it will definitely be easier to get a job in the field.

Volunteer

If you are at university, volunteer at your student radio station or write for your student magazine. Get involved with your community radio station or your community magazine. Get a few articles published and keep them for your portfolio.

Have Ideas, Be Creative and Most of All Learn How To Write A Good Pitch

When you are a journalist, you have to constantly write pitches to Editors. It could be for a newspaper, a magazine, a radio station and television. I was not prepared for the amount of pitches I will need to write. Everyone wants an idea. Something unique. You need to be creative and you need to learn how to write a good pitch. When I feel like I am good at pitches, I will be sure to write a blog post on it.

And Finally…Be Persistent

You will get a lot of rejections. There is no question about that. You will just have to keep on going. It takes a long time to get to where you want. You cannot give up!

How To Find Work Experience Placements/Internships

ImageThey say experience matters over qualifications but I think both of them go hand in hand depending on what career field you are aiming for. My field is within the media and in this industry, you need experience more so than qualifications.

I have been on many work placements and internships and people often ask me how I actually secure them, as I went from one placement to the next very quickly. In 2012, it seemed like I never stopped working and chasing those dream placements. I have completed work placements at BBC Radio 4, Absolute Radio, Channel 4, Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio and Global Radio – LBC 97.3 as well as work shadowing placements at BBC’s Radio 1, 2 and 6 Music. I completed all those placements in the space of 9 months and to many people and to myself, that is pretty impressive. So, how did I get all those placements and what tips can I give you to secure one yourself? Keep reading to find out!

How I Secured My Work Placements

I have always wanted to work for the BBC ever since I was little. That is like the dream. I wanted to work at BBC Radio (any station) for my Year 10 work experience but that was proving to be rather difficult. You could say that I was not that creative then and also not that confident. However, it was a dream that I was determined to achieve so I kept on applying and applying via the BBC Careers website and got a lot of rejections but I still never gave up.

When I was 18, I got into university to study a media related course and within 4 months of being on that course, I got my first ever BBC work experience placement at Radio 4 for one month, which quite literally changed my life. I guess you could say that being on an undergraduate course at university helps you to secure those placements because it shows that you are studying the field and therefore employers are more likely to hire you for a week or two. Luckily for me, there was a module solely on work placements and we were encouraged to find a work placement and then evaluate it in an essay form after we completed the placement. I did mine on Radio 4.

ImageThis is a picture I took of the old BBC Broadcasting House where Radio 4/Radio 3 broadcasts from as well as the BBC Radio Theatre.

ImageA picture I took of the Channel 4 building in Horseferry Road, London during my placement. This was during the London Olympics/Paralympics hence the Paralympics ‘4’.

ImageI did some interviews and reporting for LBC News with this LBC microphone.

Throughout my time at Broadcasting House (Radio 4) I made a lot of amazing contacts. I was determined to get into Radio 1 and so someone kindly gave me their Radio 1 contact. Through that, I got to work shadow Fearne Cotton’s show on Radio 1 for two days which was absolutely surreal. I then made more contacts and got work shadowing placements at Radio 2 and 6 Music. I got my LBC placement through a contact too, but I applied for Absolute Radio and Channel 4, and made sure my application form stood out and had a unique twist to it and I got them!

So, my main tips to get a work placement are…

Never Give Up!

You will get rejected. That is a part of life. The main thing is to never give up. If you truly want something in life, you should never give up because speaking from experience, if you keep trying, one day it will happen. So keep applying!

Make Your Application Stand Out

Making your application stand out is often always said but how do you make it stand out exactly?. Well, for me, I decided to add a unique touch to mine. For example, in my Channel 4 application, I said that in my culture, the media industry is looked down upon and there is not many Muslim/Asian people working in the media and I said that I wanted to change that. If I was part of the C4 HR department, I would be pretty impressed by that sentence because I said that I wanted to make a difference and I guess they liked that and offered me a chance to work there. So try to add something in the application that shows how you will benefit from the placement.

University? 

This is obviously optional and university is not for everyone but for me, I really do think that university helped me get those work placements, or at least the first one. If you are at university,  go to your careers departement and ask them for help on CV’s, application forms etc… If you are not at university, try to do something else as a hobby that can show your interest in the field you are applying for. For example, if you want to work for a magazine, start a blog and state that you love writing and your blog could be the proof.

Clean Up Your CV

Your CV is the most important thing. Clean it up. Update it and keep it simple. Tailor it to the position you are applying for. Get it checked by someone.

Contacts, Contacts, Contacts! 

NETWORK. Make contacts. That is the main thing that got me most of my placements. I made a lot of contacts and they recommended me people I could talk to. Email them showing your interest in their company, do your research and ask to meet for a quick chat. Keep in touch with them. You must make contacts because you never know, in a few years down the line, they could give you your dream job.

On top of all that, I think passion and determination is what you need  to secure work placements that actually will benefit you and help you in your journey to your career development.